Thursday, February 14, 2013

Book Review: The Insanity of God

Ripken, Nik [pseud.] with Gregg Lewis. The Insanity of God: A True Story of Faith Resurrected. Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2013. Pb. 323 pp.

First, I need to alert the reader that I personally know the author behind the pseudonym, “Nik Ripken”. I’ve attended conferences he’s led on the persecuted church. I’ve met his wife. I actually went to seminary with his brother-in-law. I once even enjoyed a leisurely breakfast on the rooftop terrace of his home in east Africa. I first heard about Nik Ripken some ten years ago at a training conference for strategy coordinators led by representatives of the International Mission Board of the SBC. At an isolated conference center in the Oxfordshire countryside west of London, I listened in amazement to accounts of his research on the persecuted church. I was part of a select group of mission strategists privileged to actually read his report—a document so explosive—so sensitive in nature—that even now I dare not list its title in this review. And I have long been frustrated that those amazing stories of faith persevering and thriving in the teeth of brutal persecution could not be publically shared for fear of adding to the suffering of God’s people. The Insanity of God has finally relieved some of that frustration.

Nik Ripken conducted the most important and comprehensive research on the persecuted church ever attempted in 2,000 years of Christian history. Decades from now, when it is finally safe to publish that research in its entirety, future generation will place it alongside other mission classics such as the Journal of William Carey and Roland Allen’s Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours? It will be required reading in seminaries. Missionary candidates will comb its pages for wisdom as they develop strategies for evangelizing the unreached. Until then, if you are not one of the few included in that very limited “need to know” group, may I heartily recommend The Insanity of God.

In its pages the author shares some of the more poignant stories of faith under persecution that were a part of his original research. To do this he has had to change names and some other identifying details in order to protect those involved from needless reprisals. In one particular case I happened to know the story told in considerable detail, so I can personally vouch for the fact that the thrust of what is told in The Insanity of God is absolutely accurate. And believe me, there is no exaggeration in these pages. What made it into print is an understatement of what actually happened. The full story is even more incredible than what you will read.

Even though I had studied the original research, I learned a great deal reading The Insanity of God. It was especially revealing about the background of Nik Ripken. This gave me a fuller appreciation of his life and work. Nik is not a physically imposing guy. He seems altogether ordinary when you meet him. But appearances can deceive. We’re talking Mr. Rogers here: with the valor and audacity of a Navy SEAL.

Reading that original research was an emotionally and spiritually shattering experience for me. Reading The Insanity of God will similarly affect you. It will inspire, horrify, and convict you. You will be amazed by what God is doing in some of the toughest mission fields on earth. You will be shaken by the relentlessness of the enemy. You will be moved to tears—both of sorrow and of joy. It will strengthen your faith. And it will shame you for the shallowness of your own discipleship when confronted by the incredible sacrifices of believers in these places of persecution. And just maybe—and I know this is the desire of the author—it will persuade you that the life of a missionary, be it on the other side of the street or on the other side of the world, is the life you need to be living. This is a dangerous book to read. Approach with caution.

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